Hello DC Theatre Fam,
As we head into the holiday season, there are quite a good number of offerings from now until New Years Eve. Not to be overlooked are a few one man plays floating about and luckily, I had the opportunity to chat with a few folks over at Solas Nua regarding Misterman, starring Thomas Keegan.
Audiences should be no strangers to the oeuvre of Rex Daugherty or Thomas Keegan, and along with Melissa Reed, the assistant director, they happily provided some insight into the world of the production of Misterman.
What are some of the more interesting themes that have risen up out of your production?
Rex Daugherty: We’ve been discussing the stories you tell about yourself. There is a big difference sometimes with how you wish you were perceived versus how you actually are perceived. This play is largely about trying to control the narrative about yourself but, because it’s Enda Walsh, some pretty extraordinary and absurdly funny things happen. As a writer, Walsh often explores the power of story-telling. With Misterman, he pushes that theme to the extreme. The character’s ability to story tell begins to rip the fabric of reality, thus blending the line of what is story and what is real.
What are the stories you feel are important to tell through this narrative?
Rex: We live in a very polarized world right now and especially so in Washington. This play asks us to sympathize with someone we normally would write off as an extremist. Through the character’s own vulnerabilities, we get to see a human side of a person a theatre going audience would typically dismiss. It’s a delicate balance but one that I think this production does very well.
If all great plays ask a question, what do you think the question aroused in this play is?
Rex: The character’s main flaw is that he isn’t able to face himself and his own past. The play is an examination of the consequences of not being able to truly be honest with yourself.
What is a moment you’re excited to share with the audience?
Rex: Any time you work on a one person play you have to create a world of other characters using just one actor. It’s always exciting to see the actor transform from one character to the next. Moments include: a wild samba dance, a huge fight scene, a dog attack, a hilarious massage, a tea party, and more. All performed by one person! One of my favorites is the one person fight scene. The way it’s choreographed you can really see the other person in the fight. I think it’s an example of physical theatre at its best.
Melissa Reed: I am excited to share the mad genius of Enda Walsh. The play set my hair on fire the first time I read it. It’s brilliant. I’m also excited to work in Dance Loft, which is the perfect venue for this piece. Our designers are supporting the architecture of the space and the play brilliantly, and I look forward to audience reactions.
Thomas Keegan: I don’t think many audience members will have seen a play quite like this one. It borders on absurdism, and it’s a play that asks more questions than it answers. I’m thrilled for the audience to experience the many surprises this play has to offer.
What’s your favourite thing about Misterman, as a script, and as a production?
Melissa: My favorite thing about creating Misterman has been the intimacy of the artistic process. We’ve had a few visitors here and there–the design team, mostly–but our work has primarily been Thomas, Rex, and me together in the rehearsal room. Also, we’ve had a bit longer of a rehearsal period, which was a gift. It gave us some breathing room to stop and ask big questions, while still maintaining our momentum.
Watching Thomas Magill (the character) seduce himself. You have to see it.
Rex: I love the reckless energy of this piece. Misterman is 60 minutes of adrenaline. It’s physical, high octane theatre. This isn’t a sit back and relax play…it’s more of a grab hold of what you can and try to keep up play!
And I love working with Thomas Keegan. He’s whip smart and throws himself into this play with total abandon. He’s already quite accomplished as a young actor. This past season he was at Round House, then Arena, then Ford’s. And he just finished his run of Death of a Salesman at Ford’s this season before going back to Ford’s later this year. I wouldn’t have picked this show without an actor who was up for the challenge. And although he is one of DC’s favorite young actors, this is a role that the area hasn’t seen him tackle yet. It’s so rewarding to give great artists an opportunity to flex new muscles.
Thomas: I play Thomas Magill, a troubled, lonely young man, who is struggling to make sense of his place in the world. My favorite thing about him? His faith.
Since we made a promotional video about it, I don’t suppose I’m spoiling anything to say that there’s is a brief one-sided fist fight, in which I take a pretty good beating from an imaginary man. Another day at the office…
Misterman is the full measure of Enda Walsh’s unleashed ideas. It’s challenging, wild, and absolutely thrilling to bring to life.
What are some of the challenges in mounting this production?
Rex: This is probably the most complicated one-man show ever but in a totally delightful and challenging way. The play simply demands everyone involved to bring something new to a solo performance piece. Often in solo shows the tech elements are imagined as the actor is in charge of visually telling the audience the story. That’s only partly true for Misterman. The actor begins to tell one story but the tech elements begins to interrupt with a different version of events. The set, for instance, is peppered with tape decks and reel to reels where the character interacts with recorded conversations of people in his town. But the recorded voices start having a mind of their own and challenge the character to reveal the truth he is hiding. It’s part mystery-thriller and part comedic-farce as the character scrambles to keep hold of the narrative.
What tools are you using to construct the world of Irishfree?
Rex: The design is another character in the play. It serves to challenge the narrator to reveal the truth, which is an incredible thing to watch in a solo performance. We begin to realize that perhaps our narrator isn’t telling us the whole story. It’s a battle of will as the actor faces off with set, sound, and lights that are breaking free of his control.
Any parting thoughts about Misterman?
Rex: Enda Walsh’s writing is some of the most original and exciting work I’ve ever come across. If you’ve seen the hit musical Once, The Walworth Farce, or Disco Pigs then you know how fierce and unique Walsh is as a writer. But this play is the full measure of his unleashed ideas. It’s challenging, wild, and absolutely thrilling to bring to life.
And now for that solo fight: